Western Michigan Fairgrounds - Grand Rapids MI

Address: 201 N Park St NW
City: Grand Rapids
State: MI
Zip: 49544
County: Kent
Number of visits to this page: 14879

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General Information:

Update 2/26/2024: I have found some additional information on this track and fairgrounds. There are a few photos below finally and a nice aerial showing the track sat on the fairgrounds in Comstock Park. I am using a modern address that is the general lot the track was on.

Dirt Oval - Operating Dates: 1915 - AKA Grand Rapids Fairgrounds

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Info Updates:
6/9/2017 - Jason Hofman
You can see photos of the grandstands and the large exhibit hall that once stood on the Western Michigan Fairgrounds if you visit Mill Creek Tavern in Comstock Park. I believe the fair that once operated in Comstock Park closed in the early 1930s and was moved to Lowell, Michigan, known today as the Kent County Youth Fair.
12/15/2010 - Gary Laster
The Grand Rapids Speedrome later was on ths site, now occupied by Greeleaf Lanscaping.
12/17/2004 - Dick Lee
The West Michigan Fairgrounds was located on North Park St. between the North Park Bridge and West river Dr. NW in Comstock Park, MI, a suburb of Grand RApids, MI. It was a one-mile dirt track with the first race held on September 26, 1903.The track had long straightaways with turns slightly banked and the backstretch of the track was only ten feet from the Grand River.The track was closed in 1937 when the state closed it down leaving only the Detroit Fairgounds in the state. The Grand Rapids RAcing Club was formed on September 12, 1903 and the first race drew 1,900 paid admissions which allowed the club to break even. The promoters wereW.S. DAniels and a Mr. Morse. Carl Fisher was the winner of the first event over Earl Kiser.

The next year the winner was none other than the world famous Barney Oldfield, who ran the mile in 56.6 seconds, which was close to the worlds record for a one-mile dirt track. Barney went on to win the race with a time of 9:17 for the ten miles from a standing start with an eighty horsepower Peerless racer.

A large crowd of 4,000 filled the grandstands, lined the fences and gathered on an exhibition stage. The following year, the local paper said, "Fifty deputies have been engaged to watch fences and the gates, the American Automobile Association is determined to make those pay who see the expensive cars of this years meet."

From 1906 to 1908 no races were held. 1909 saw the appearance of two champion drivers, Louis Chevrolet and Ralph DePelma, who was to go on and win the Indianapolis 500 in 1915. Barney Oldfield set a new track racord of 52.4 seconds in 1910. Louis Arms, a writer for the local paper wrote about Oldfield this way, "The magic of the name Oldfield brought thousands to Comstock Park....when it was fashionable to bang through fences andclimb trees at a sixty mile an hour clip, Barney always insisted on making the biggest hole in the fence and hanging from the highest brough."

In 1911 they talked about 200 horsepower cars and a $500 purse. Wild Bob Burman set two track records breaking those of Oldfield and DePalma. Fifty-one seconds for one mile. Fred Pantlind was the referee of th emeet held during the fair.

Teddy Tetzloff in a 300 horsepower Blitzen Benz set a new track record of fifty seconds flat and won the fifty miler that was run in 1914. Five thousand spectators turned out for th erace. In October of that year, auto polo was introduced and it was called the "Undertakers Delight."

1916 found DePalma, driving a Mercedes, beating Ralph Mulford. DePalma being billed as "one of the speed marvels of the world." A fatality struck in 1923 when Bernard McCale, a 22 year of driver from Detroit drove a Frontenac to his death on June 17th. 3,500 spectators looked on the Sunday afternoon. There were five others injured in the pile up, which went through the fence. McCale went end over end and was fatally injured.

The Grand Rapids Speedway Association wsa formed in 1924 and Sid Haugdal was the victor. Racing programs sold for ten cents in those pre-inflation days.

There were twenty-five entries for a 100 mile race with a $3,000 purse in 1925. But the big news was when Sheriff W.L. Smith stopped the Sunday races at Comstock Park. A quote from the local paper said, "Three separte petitions from congregations of local churches have been presented to Sheriff Smith requesting him to halt all similiar Sunday exhibitions and he stated his action is partly in accordance with these demands." "As a result of thise protests, raised from many sources, I have ordered against any more Sunday racing. The law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to stage such exhibitions on a Sunday. The expense to the promoters, participants and also spectators is punishable by a fine of ten dollars, and costs. If someone should disobey my orders, I would be forced to arrest all racers, prpmoters, judges, time keepers and spectators as all are equally guilty under the law as I understand it."

Shortley Catlan set a new track record in 1926. 1932 saw the Interstate Racing association of Lansing sponsor short distacnce races on Sunday afternoons. apparently Sunday racing was no longer illegal. Barney Oldfield and Ralph DePalma returned in 1935, but Buddy Callaway won. The end of the West Michigan Fairgrounds in Comstock Park came in 1937 and the one-mile dirt track never ran again.

Western Michigan Fairgrounds - Flooded Fairgrounds Grand Rapids Comstock Park
Flooded Fairgrounds Grand Rapids Comstock Park
Western Michigan Fairgrounds - 1916 Postcard From Mlive
1916 Postcard From Mlive
Western Michigan Fairgrounds - 1916 Article From Mlive
1916 Article From Mlive
Western Michigan Fairgrounds - 1955 Aerial
1955 Aerial
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